Under the new gun laws that took effect at the start of the New Year in California, the minimum age to purchase a firearm of any kind is now 21, a change that a Santa Maria gun shop owner said goes too far.
“It’s pretty clear I opened a gun store in the wrong state,” said Tacti-cool Guns and Gear Owner Brian Anton.
Anton, a former Santa Barbara County custody deputy, opened the shop seven years ago. Since then, Anton said several of his products have been outlawed and as a result, his customer base has narrowed.
“From a political point of view, we’re almost the bad guys in the state,” Anton said.
New 2019 state laws include lifetime bans for people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses, a mandatory 8-hour training course to obtain a conceal and carry permit, a requirement for gun dealers to background check customers through the Department of Justice before selling ammunition, and raising the age to purchase any firearm to 21.
“They’re considering 18-year-olds to be adults and responsible enough to vote for our president and serve our country, (but) they’re apparently too irresponsible or dangerous to own rifles and shotguns,” Anton said. “It doesn’t make much sense.”
Under the new law, an 18-year-old who is a member of law enforcement or honorably discharged service member can own a firearm in California.
To Keanu Lyday, an 18-year-old activist who helped organize the SLO March for Our Lives, the new laws are an example of sensible gun reform that other states should consider.
“The bills passed and implemented are a good step, they kind of check off a few things that we were asking for,” Lyday said.
An NBC report published in 2018 with data from the Centers for Disease Control finds California has one of the strictest set of gun laws – over 100 regulations – and the lowest rates of firearm-related deaths. But Maine, which has about a dozen firearm laws, ranked about the same.
“MS 13 and the people doing bad things with guns typically don’t come to gun stores to buy ammo, it’s the law abiding people who do,” Anton said.
California lawmakers are now considering an excise tax on gun sales that would fund violence intervention and prevention activities.
Lyday said he sympathizes for Anton’s loss of business but believes the gun industry may boom once again provided the use and sales of firearms are made safer.
“When we get to the point where buying a gun is completely legal and everyone is doing it properly and we don’t have to worry about people buying guns to commit horrific crimes, you can count on your business thriving once again,” he said.